The Space Research Institute (Institut für Weltraumforschung, IWF) in Graz is with over 80 staff members from more than a dozen different nationalities one of the biggest institutes of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. It focuses on physics and exploration of the solar system, covering the whole chain of research needed in its fields: from developing and building space-qualified instruments to analyzing and interpreting the data returned by these instruments, with support from theoretical studies. In the area of instrument development the focus lies on building magnetometers and on-board computers, on antenna calibration, and on satellite laser ranging.
In terms of science, IWF concentrates on space plasma physics, on the upper atmospheres of solar system bodies and exoplanets, and on the Earth’s and other bodies’ gravity field.
Presently, the institute is involved in 16 international space missions, led by the European Space Agency (ESA), or by national space agencies in the US (NASA), Japan, Russia, and China. The missions cover fleets of satellites in near-Earth space (Cluster, THEMIS, Van Allen Probes, MMS, Resonance, EMS), observation of the Sun (STEREO, Solar Orbiter), exploration of planets such as Saturn (Cassini), Jupiter (Juno, JUICE), Mars (InSight), Venus (Venus Express), Mercury (BepiColombo) and extrasolar planets (CHEOPS), as well as orbiting and landing on comets (Rosetta). From building the instruments to analyzing their data, these projects last 10-30 years.
The institute has three departments: Experimental Space Research, Extraterrestrial Physics, and Satellite Geodesy. Scientifically, there are no walls between them and staff members from different departments work successfully together in approximately a dozen of research groups.